Archives For January 2015

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On 31.01.15 people are meeting in South London and East London to march on Boris in City Hall to demand better homes for Londoners and an end to the housing crisis:

Control rents
Hands off council housing
Stop demolition of quality council homes
Affordable and secure homes for all
Cut rents not benefits
No Scapegoating Immigrants
No Racist Landlord Checks
End Bedroom Tax and welfare caps
Build new council houses
Better pay & conditions, better housing services

Called by Defend Council Housing and South London People’s Assembly. (Unite Housing Workers is supporting & assisting in the organising).
The March for Homes is supported by hundreds of groups and

For details of the East London march see:

Please visit or for updates.


by Kam Sandhu @KamBass


Cameron’s motto following election was his vow to ‘make work pay’ – let’s see how he has done so far!

Image: The Guardian

Image: The Guardian

Most people classed as being in poverty are in work!

“For the first time, there are more people in working families living below the poverty line (6.7 million) than in workless and retired families in poverty combined (6.3 million), according to the 2013 annual survey of poverty trends from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.”

 – Another first for Cameron, as a record of 5m people are stuck on low pay (2014)!

“An extra 250,000 people joined the ranks of the low-paid last year, bringing the total to a new high of 5.2m, according to a report from the Resolution Foundation.

The number of low-paid workers has become a serious problem, said the report, with almost one in four being stuck on that rate for the last five years.

Matthew Whittaker, chief economist for the Resolution Foundation, said that while low pay was likely to be better than no pay at all, being stuck on a low wage “creates not only immediate financial pressures, but can permanently affect people’s career prospects.”

More people in work are becoming dependent on help to get by

“In the past two years, 93% of new people claiming housing benefit have been working.” Apr 2013

If you’re on a workfare scheme (working for free under threat of losing your benefits) you’re counted as ‘in employment!

“The Office of National Statistics confirmed this in response to a parliamentary question.”

Hmmm, maybe that helps explain why there are already more people ‘in employment’ in the UK than ever before….

– The Work Programme has been worse than doing nothing at all. It has been punishing claimants and rewarding private contractors for poor results.

The success rate in the first year for A4E , a private welfare-to-work provider, amounted to 3.5%, below the government’s minimum levels of 5.5%.The government said they expected “that providers will significantly exceed these minimum levels.”

“Effectively, the department was saying that if firms failed to hit these targets, they would actually be making the situation worse than it would have been if they had done nothing.

“So the government wanted to see 5.5 per cent of 18-24-year-olds claiming jobseekers’ allowance in sustained work after the first year. They got 3.4 per cent.

“DWP also wanted long-term jobs for 5.5 per cent of over-25s on jobseekers’ allowance. The actual result was 3.4 per cent.

“And they wanted the same percentage for new claimants of employment and support allowance (ESA) – the payment for some sick and disabled people that replaced incapacity benefit. Only 1.5 per cent of people from this group found sustained work.

“This last figure is especially poor and that is important, because getting people off ESA could be one of the keys to beating long-term unemployment.”

FactCheck, Why the Work Programme isn’t Working – Yet

Claimant cases cited being forced to apply for jobs they were not qualified for or could not get under threat of sanction. We were paying for a company to force unemployed people on poverty benefits to write meaningless applications under threat. Who is benefitting here?

The situation has not got any better in the years since with statistics released in 2014 revealing that the Work Programme had seen a 3% success rate for the 1.5million people referred. Additionally, 5 times as many people were sanctioned as found work. Again, a result that is worse than doing nothing at all. Yet, the entire work programme is projected to cost the public purse between £3 – 5bn in the five years from 2011.

Prevalence of Zero Hour Contracts

The Office For National Statistics revealed that over half of big companies used around 1.4 million zero hour contracts in 2014. While in some cases these are agreeable terms, over the last few years, the desperation of employees has been exploited through the use of zero hour contracts, which are presented as the only option by employers, leaving workers without holiday pay, sick pay and no promise of hours. They have also been used as management tool by companies.

“What we see actually, is that these contracts are being used to disempower the employee. So we’ve seen evidence of really bad management practice where someone is on a zero hour contract, their boss says ‘I want you to work Saturday.’ They might say ‘I can’t’ or ‘I can’t get childcare’ for example, or ‘I would simply rather not’, and they are zeroed down, which is effectively where they’re pushed to very few or no hours in the medium or longer term. So that’s in effect, using these contracts as a management tool, when that’s not what they’re intended for and that’s a great imbalance of power between the employer and the employee.”

Giselle Cory, Resolution Foundation

This open letter by Steve Thomson serves as a heartbreaking example of what this type of contract can do to employees when abused:


I have dined in your establishments many times but I write to inform you that I will never do so again and nor will any of my friends or family.

The reason for this is that my stepson has the misfortune to work in your Thomas Sheraton bar in Stockton and I am now aware of the basis upon which you operate and profit.

He is “employed” on a zero hours basis and earns barely enough to feed himself. Not long after joining your establishment he got into trouble with his rent due to the extremely low wages and was evicted from his home. I blame the basis of his employment with you for this. He now lives 2 miles away from your bar and is obliged to walk this distance to and from work as he does not earn enough to afford public transport. Yesterday my wife was obliged to buy him new shoes as he had worn holes in his existing ones. I think it is appalling that you do not provide your kitchen staff with appropriate footwear. If you feel that this communication is becoming a stream of negative comments then I urge you to read on as I have more to say. This 4 mile round trip trudge is sometimes made to attend a one hour shift. Unbelievable, a day’s work of just ONE HOUR. Furthermore, if he attends expecting a longer shift this is sometimes not the case as he is sent home if trade is slack. He, your employee takes all the risk, you the employer take none. You’ll note that I do not mention his name. This is for fear of reprisals. Before you scoff, let me tell you this: When he first joined you, after two months of working every single weekend he politely enquired if he might have a weekend off. He was given the weekend off but worked no other hours either. A genuine ZERO hours. This was clearly a reprisal and he has never asked for the weekend off again.

The only way he can survive on such grindingly low wages is by getting benefits top ups. In order to do this he must provide pay slips which you do not provide. He is obliged to download them and print them himself and given that he will never be able to afford a computer and printer so long as he works for you, he must go to the library. I put it to you that it takes him more effort to work for you for a pittance than it does me to fulfill a full time job.

Clearly your business model requires that the public purse subsidise your employee’s wages. This to my mind makes your firm and others like you one of the benefit scroungers we hear so much about these days.

Yours sincerely


Removal of employment rights 

And to add to all that, Cameron has taken it upon himself to remove employment rights during his term. There’s been his introduction of a tribunal fee for employees who want to take their employer to court, apparently to encourage settlements out of court. Yet, this only harms the already powerless employee, and it “has severely limited access to justice for workers, according to research from the Universities of Bristol and Strathclyde.”

Some declared Cameron’s actions as a ‘war’ on workplace rights as he backed proposals to make it easier to sack staff without explanation with a “fire at will” policy (NICE!), as well as changes to redundancy notice periods to a third of what they were, and cap compensations for unfair dismissals.

So Cameron has made the jobs market one stricken with misery, in work poverty, bad conditions and low employee rights (and sometimes no pay at all!) and now he wants as many of us to take part in it as possible. Great!


Image: The Telegraph

Image: The Telegraph



Checkouts are being replaced up and down the country, removing jobs from people who, in our current system, are then punished for not having a job. The takeover of technology is going to become more commonplace, and we need to move with it. Technological advances can, will and should free us from the tedious and mundane.

Yes, people’s attitudes to work may change, but the UK needs more flexibility as we are currently seeing one section of society work so much they are driven to poor health, and another section who cannot find work and are driven to poverty. John Ashton, a leading UK scientist commented on this last year:

“When you look at the way we lead our lives, the stress that people are under, the pressure on time and sickness absence, [work-related] mental health is clearly a major issue. We should be moving towards a four-day week because the problem we have in the world of work is you’ve got a proportion of the population who are working too hard and a proportion that haven’t got jobs”, Ashton said.”

Further, the New Economics Foundation say that we could all work a 21 hour work week and sustain ourselves to the standards we have now, with extra time for ourselves:

“A ‘normal’ working week of 21 hours could help to address a range of urgent, interlinked problems: overwork, unemployment, over-consumption, high carbon emissions, low well-being, entrenched inequalities, and the lack of time to live sustainably, to care for each other, and simply to enjoy life.”

Cameron says he wants to overtake Germany in the race to ‘full employment.’ 

“Germans work on average around 1413 hours a year – one of the lowest rates in the OECD, and much lower than the average 1776 in other EU countries. This averages out at just under 30 hours a week.

Despite this, Germans are still more productive per head, per hour compared to the UK who work much longer hours (an average of 43 per week).

Germans also have an average of 40 days holiday a year including bank holidays. This is much higher than the European average of 27, and accounts for an extra 2.5 weeks worth of time off.”

The Alts: Why We Need To Talk About Germany

Anyone hear Cameron mention any of this? Working less, with more holidays? No? weird. Anyone would think he wants us to submit to an economy of low pay, bad working conditions, poverty and restricted employment rights just to keep us busy!

The UK also has the highest rates of work related illnesses in the EU. This is only getting worse in environments of low pay and falling working conditions.

We should be talking about initiatives like the Universal Basic Income, which guarantees all of us some basic subsistence to live. And it is very feasible:

“Natalie Bennett, Green Party leader, backs the idea of the Universal Basic Income and has noted that around £7000 a year could be allocated to every UK citizen through the removal of the over-complicated benefits system and staff. The Citizens Income Trust estimate that £10,000 for everyone could be achieved through these measures and adjustments elsewhere.”

Some may decry the UBI as radical policy, but seeing 1 million people use a food bank when we have enough food, seeing homelessness rising when we have enough homes, and witnessing a wealth gap of such disparity that by next year the 1% could have more than the 99%, is surely far more so. Read our article on the Universal Basic Income to find out more.

Image: Basic Income UK

Image: Basic Income UK



There are more people working than ever, but growing numbers of them are in poverty. The problem is pay, but Cameron’s jobs promises always seem to be divorced from mention of this.

Further, Cameron has actively taken part in a shift of money and power away from the poor to the rich. He and his government make choices everyday that say putting people into poverty, into hunger, into destitution is worth it, but cuts to corporate welfare are not even talking points:

“Benefits are what we grudgingly hand the poor; the rich are awarded tax breaks. Cut through the euphemisms and the Treasury accounting, however, and you’re left with two forms of welfare. Except that the hundreds given to people sleeping on the street has been deemed unaffordable. Those millions for $150bn Disney, on the other hand, that’s apparently money well spent –whoever coined the phrase “taking the Mickey” must have worked for HM Revenue.”

Aditya Chakrabortty, Cut benefits? Yes let’s start with our £85bn corporate welfare handout

Cameron and Osborne went to the EU to defend bankers bonuses for the bankers. Iain Duncan Smith went to court to protect the identities of workfare providers.

Cameron’s ‘full employment’ will be nothing less than ‘full exploitation’. At a time when all of us could be working less and having more freedom, Cameron is promising us a world of full employment, in the jobs market he has helped design for our misery. He has worked to grant more power to the powerful, from the powerless. Another term will see this trend continue.


1) Oxfam reveals 1% own half world’s wealth and increasing

New research released on Monday, by anti-poverty charity Oxfam, reveals that the top 1% own around half the world’s wealth, and if current trends continue, they will own more than the other 99% by next year.

In 2009, the 1% owned 44% of the world’s wealth. By 2014, this had increased to 48%. Meanwhile, the bottom 80% own just 5.5%.

Oxfam released this released their report ahead of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland and said they would use their profile at the Forum to put pressure on countries and groups to tackle this increasing inequality.


Screen shot 2015-01-24 at 11.49.16

Read more about this story here.

2) 40% of British families ‘too poor to play a part in society’

Those aiming to keep subjects like the wealth gap, and the increasing power and wealth of the 1%, out of the limelight, often claim that this has no bearing on the poor, and that focus should be on the poor instead of ‘attacking the rich’. They will aim to break the relation between increasing wealth for the rich and increasing poverty for the poor, but that money is being taken out of societies, from public money, public services, and welfare. The same year 1million people needed a food bank in the UK, the rich list increased their wealth by 15%.

Now the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have released a report detailing that 4 in 10, or 8.1 million people, live below an income required to play a part in society. This increased by a third from 2008/09 to 2012/13.

The findings show ‘economic growth’ is not happening for those that need it most.

“The definition of minimum income threshold assumes a single person of working age needs an income of £16,284. It suggests in the case of a couple with two children, each needs to reach an income threshold of £20,400. It does not pretend to be a poverty measure, or act as a substitute for the government’s half-abandoned child poverty measure of the numbers earning 60% below median earnings. It is instead a definition of the income required to have not just food, shelter and clothes, but also to be able to be a participant in society.

“The definition, reached in discussion with the public through focus groups, looks at what a household needs to be integrated in society and has been used in the past as a benchmark for the living wage.

“It includes, for instance, the ability to pay for a week’s holiday in the UK, or a second-hand car for families with children. It assumes no cigarettes or visits to the pub.”

Read more about this story here.


3) Government challenged on benefit figures, as new poll shows British claimants in EU outnumber immigrants here

A new survey, conducted by the Guardian newspaper, shows that the number of Britons claiming benefits across the EU, outnumber immigrants from respective countries claiming here, going against government figures.

For example the report says that 23,011 Britons were on welfare in Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, France and Ireland, compared to just 8720 of those nationals claiming here.

The survey was conducted on 23 of the 27 EU countries.

“Thirty thousand people, or 2.5% of all British nationals, in other EU member states means that the overwhelming majority of Brits abroad as well as European citizens in Britain are not an undue burden for the countries in which they live,” said Dr Roxana Barbulescu, researcher on international migration at the University of Sheffield, to the Guardian.”

Read more about this story here.

4) Farage admits he wants to privatise NHS

in 2012, UKIP leader Nigel Farage let slip that he would ‘feel more comfortable’ with a privatised NHS. Spin doctors did their best to say that he had changed his mind, despite Deputy Leader Paul Nuttall also expressing his desire to let privatisation in.

Now Farage says this is a debate he will have to return to, revealing that he is courting the idea of implementing a US style insurance scheme. Bear in mind, the US spends the most on healthcare and has the worst system in the developed world.

Image: Leftfootforward

Image: Leftfootforward

It was only a couple of weeks ago that Hinchingbrooke hospital became the first to be declared ‘inadequate’ by the Care Quality Commission, and was accused of putting patient safety at risk, with tactics including skeleton staffing. The hospital was owned by Circle Health, a private healthcare company which won healthcare contracts following donations to the Tory party.

Read more reasons why the NHS does not need privatisation. 

Read more about this story here.

5) There are 10 homes for every homeless family in England

The Mirror revealed that there are 10 homes for every homeless family in England, and yet numbers of homeless people keep rising.

While efforts by Labour to reduce homelessness over five years of government saw figures drop from 100,000 to 48,000, the number of homeless people has been increasing again since 2011.

While some of these empty homes are waiting for renters or sales, many are being held empty by investors.

The Labour government brought in a ‘use it or lose it’ policy that allows councils to seize properties left empty for 6 months. The Tories extended this to two years upon their election and even resisted attempts to multiply council tax on these homes.

Image: The MIrror

Image: The MIrror

Read more about this story here.

6) Steve Emerson laughed off BBC News

American ‘Terrorism expert’ (lol) Steve Emerson, who hit the headlines the other week for saying that Birmingham in the UK is a ‘no-go zone for non-Muslims’ was interviewed on the BBC about his comments and where he got his ‘findings’. It’s quite funny.



7) Occupy Democracy return to Parliament Square


Occupy Democracy enter Parliament Square, Judicial Review, 24th January 2014 from Occupy London on Vimeo.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

by Ranjan Kumaran – @financialeyes

Anti-corruption campaigners gathered at University of London’s Senate House today to highlight the inaugural meeting of a Legal Think Tank, EFILA, whose members lobby for the ISDS clause, in which countries can be sued by corporations, to be included in the latest Tory backed EU-US trade deal.

Linda Kaucher of Stop TTIP said –

“Investor State Dispute Settlement is a blatant attempt by corporations to ransack public resources, aided by the sort of people attending this EFILA conference.

“The lawyers attending this meeting today make big money from investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) cases, whether acting as adjudicators, acting for corporations or defending states in these cases.

“Their background work is seeking out agreements, often signed up years ago, to find opportunities for corporations to sue governments, regardless of how that will hit a country’s health or education budgets. Even when governments successfully defend these cases they have to pay millions in costs to these lawyers. Thus these lawyers are like leeches on public finance, sucking the public money that is there to be used for the public good, a disgrace to the law profession and to humanity.

“The EU public has clearly stated, in response to the EU Commission ISDS consultation, that it does not want ISDS at all. Now those charged with carrying out the will of the people must act accordingly.

“There is an opportunity, in law, to end existing member states agreements (Bilateral Investment Agreements) that have ISDS. That opportunity must be taken, not the fact of existing agreements used as a reason to sign up to ISDS provision in ever more far-reaching agreements like TTIP, as is currently happening.

“ISDS must be kept out of any new so-called ‘trade agreements’, even as the fight against these corporate agreements being signed at all, continues. The people coming here for this conference need to understand that the people are opposed to how they make money.”



The Market Society

kamsandhu —  January 22, 2015 — 3 Comments

Following on from ‘The Success of Inequality’, we delve deeper into the effects of ‘The Market Society’…

‘The more things money can buy, the harder it is to be poor’, argues Michael Sandel in this Guardian, Comment is Free video. When money determines access to basic human necessities such as healthcare, education and political voice, inequality becomes far more important. Sandel claims that we have already made some of these destructive financial moves, becoming a ‘market society’ rather than using a ‘market economy’ as a tool.

We are currently seeing a huge transfer of public money and public services go to private hands, but little is said of the true contradictory effect of these moves.

Outsourcing public services and institutions such as the NHS or prisons, or providing cash incentives for short-term results, generally acts to hollow out the true purpose of the service. The nature of the service will tend to mould itself around the new motivation: profit – a motive hammered down through management from shareholders, CEOs and investors. In the following examples we see how this can destroy the purpose of services:


Putting private healthcare companies, who’s only motivation is profit, into the NHS risks the standards of a universal system, fractures it and creates unaccountability.

The NHS is one of the best healthcare systems in the world, but it is under threat.

Part of the reason the NHS is so effective is because the entire system has been run as a complete public service. This allows cohesion between departments, access to cheaper medication and supplies, as it is one large healthcare provider (which means value for money to the taxpayer), and management sees input from doctors and nurses who can focus on providing the best, effective service and have the best knowledge to do this.

Private healthcare firms looking to profit from NHS contracts exchange the priorities from providing the best care to making the most profit. Virgin Healthcare did not exist before NHS contracts came up to tender, demonstrating the lack of background, expertise and track record required to take on these contracts. In 2011/2 Virgin Care won a £450m NHS contract to take over a practice in Surrey:

Since Virgin took it over from the NHS, patients have had to wait up to three weeks for an appointment instead of three days, three GPs have been reduced to one, and three nurses cut to one part-time nurse. And while the company boasts about the surgery’s opening hours, often there are no clinicians present, just an open empty building. Locals complain that Virgin has “brought Third World medical standards to Kings Heath.

Alex Nunns, Liberal Conspiracy

Earlier this month, Hinchingbrooke Hospital became the first hospital declared ‘inadequate’ by the Care Quality Commission in providing care for patients, instead putting patient safety at risk.

The report from the CQC said the hospital was substantially and frequently short-staffed, particularly in the A&E department.

Cutting staff hours is a common trope used by companies to save money. Hinchingbrooke hospital is run by private healthcare company Circle.



Another reason privatisation of the NHS is ineffective is because it breaks up the system. It causes problems in cohesion and communication with different departments. And perhaps the most telling aspect of privatisation and it’s motives is that companies buy up only the most profitable and easy to run areas of healthcare, leaving the difficult areas to the public purse. So, the taxpayer and the NHS is laden with the difficult and expensive areas of healthcare, whilst seeing all the profitable departments sink rewards into private pockets. The only ones gaining from this transaction are private healthcare investors. The public, the NHS as a whole, staff and public money are all losing out.

In 2013, it was the coalition government’s treatment of the NHS as a business that lead to criticisms from the influential medical journal, The Lancet:

“Reading headlines last week, such as ‘Struggling A&E units to get £500m bailout’ and ‘NHS managers to get price comparison website’, one might be forgiven for thinking that the current coalition government views the NHS as a failing bank or business,” it said.

“This stance is one of the most cynical, and at the same time cunning, ways by which the government abdicates all responsibilities for running a healthcare system that has patient care and safety at its heart.”


If you want examples of private healthcare systems to compare, look no further than America. A country which spends the most on healthcare, and yet has the worst standards and results among wealthy countries.

Image: Leftfootforward

Image: Leftfootforward


Clive Peedell, National Health Action Party: “The American Medical Profession lost public support faster than any other group during the rapid commercialisation of their healthcare system in the 70’s and 80’s. They lost huge public support because they were putting money before patients.
“When the patient comes in, they say ‘well you need this procedure’. They make money. So if there’s a borderline decision whether someone actually needs a procedure or doesn’t, [for] all those borderline decisions, they’ll give that treatment.
“Now prostate cancer, I manage prostate cancer. If you go and see a prostate surgeon in America, you get a prostatectomy. If you see a radiation oncologist, you’ll get radiotherapy. So it depends who you see and what treatement. In the UK we have careful discussion in our meetings. We all do what’s best for the patient, we give the patient a choice in terms of what treatment they want to have.”
Max Keiser : “So if I go to Kings Cross station and I accidentally get on the wrong train, the conductor doesn’t bother whether I’m on the wrong train or not. They’re gonna stamp my ticket. Similarly, you’re saying in the healthcare system, if I happen to wander into the wrong department in the hospital, they’ll just give me whatever procedure they’re doing over there in the hospital. They don’t really care what the situation is at all. They’ve got money to make, they’ve got quotas to meet…”
Clive Peedell: “If you’ve got the money in the United States, you can get very good care. It’s a system that’s got islands of excellence in a sea of misery because for 50 million uninsured people, it’s a disaster.”

Outsourcing work programmes

As part of coalition welfare reforms, A4E, a for-profit welfare-to-work company were contracted in at taxpayer’s expense to help jobseekers into work. Cameron promised a revolution in welfare to work programmes and quickly made A4E chairwoman, Emma Harrison, the family tsar. Cameron promised that those stuck in long term unemployment would see the greatest support and results.

However, one year into the Work Programme and the initial results from A4E were grim reading. Over 94,000 people were attached to A4E work programmes. Of these, 3,400 had successful outcomes with employment lasting longer than three months. The cost to the taxpayer for these 3,400 outcomes was £46m. That’s around £13,500 per person in work.

The success rate for A4E amounted to 3.5%, below the government’s minimum levels of 5.5%.The government said they expected “that providers will significantly exceed these minimum levels”.

“Effectively, the department was saying that if firms failed to hit these targets, they would actually be making the situation worse than it would have been if they had done nothing.

“So the government wanted to see 5.5 per cent of 18-24-year-olds claiming jobseekers’ allowance in sustained work after the first year. They got 3.4 per cent.

“DWP also wanted long-term jobs for 5.5 per cent of over-25s on jobseekers’ allowance. The actual result was 3.4 per cent.

“And they wanted the same percentage for new claimants of employment and support allowance (ESA) – the payment for some sick and disabled people that replaced incapacity benefit. Only 1.5 per cent of people from this group found sustained work.

“This last figure is especially poor and that is important, because getting people off ESA could be one of the keys to beating long-term unemployment.”

FactCheck, Why the Work Programme isn’t Working – Yet

It wasn’t long before whistleblowers and ‘customers’ (as they are called when being sent to A4E, rather than jobseekers) were speaking out about the problems with the provider. Staff were plied with hundreds of cases, leading them to deal with their ‘Top 10’ that month to hit targets and secure income, leaving those harder to help without support and at the bottom of the pile. When the focus is on income rather than providing the best support, ‘easier’ cases were quicker to deal with. Claimants who found work on their own were also cashed in on by providers. This is a subject touched upon by the jobcentre advisor we interviewed last year:

“I am unable to emphasise enough what a massive con and waste of taxpayer’s money this is. Daily, I speak to those poor souls on this mad scheme and many who have returned after a 2 year stint. How journalists have not scooped this, I do not know.  The payment by results contract is an incentive to do nothing. Look at it like this; you are a private company paid to get people into work. You have a financial investment. Who do you invest that money in? Mr Jones who is highly educated and has only recently been made redundant? Or Mr Simpson who has been out of work for years and needs everything from numeracy and literacy training to PC skills? Mr Jones may only need a £50 interview suit or most likely no intervention at all – he will find work on his own. Bingo! The Government will pay you £2,500 if he starts work and stays there for 6 months. You could invest a hell of a lot of your staff resources and profits in getting Mr Simpson to a job ready state, but it’s a huge gamble. You get a higher reward but your losses are higher if he doesn’t find work. Private companies do not like this kind of risk. This is why it is now without question that Work Programme providers ‘park’ the harder to help customers. I have seen this relentlessly for the past couple of years and I do not think anyone could deny this is what happens. I ask customers what the WP is doing for them and they tell me they are lucky if they get a phone call every few months. But, if this person finds a job on his own (which does happen) the WP provider could get £12,000+.”

Interview with a Jobcentre Advisor , RealFare

Other claimant cases cited being forced to apply for jobs they were not qualified for or could not get under threat of sanction. We were paying for a company to force unemployed people on poverty benefits to write meaningless applications under threat. Who is benefitting here?

The situation has not got any better in the years since with statistics released in 2014 revealing that the Work Programme had seen a 3% success rate for the 1.5million people referred. Additionally, 5 times as many people were sanctioned as found work. Again, a result that is worse than doing nothing at all. Yet, the entire work programme is projected to cost the public purse between £3 – 5bn in the five years from 2011.

Those that this work programme revolution was meant to help, the long-term unemployed, are undesirable and risky ‘investments’, and thus are neglected in the system purported to serve them. Arguably, the work programme is pushing them further away from work and support, whilst those able to find work on their own are cynically cashed in on by a company.

Simply adding a cash incentive for private companies to provide a service that requires support and long term goals, does not solve the problem. It merely moulds the shape of the service to the area that provides quickest, highest return because the goal of a profit driven company is profit. Under pressure, the bottom line comes first.

Political Voice

Who does our government represent? Who do they work for?

Adding financial leeway and incentives through donations (as above with Paul Ruddock and the NHS) is seeing parts of our society being sold to those who are not providing the greatest social good or service but whoever rubs shoulders with and stuffs the pockets of our politicians. Indeed, sometimes those who participate in the very ‘cancer eating our democracy’ (Richard Murphy’s view of tax evasion and avoidance), are held in the highest regard. Gary Barlow made a donation to the Conservative Party and was then put forward for an OBE by David Cameron. Barlow also took part in a tax avoidance scheme with bandmates. Tax avoidance and evasion is estimated to cost the economy over £100bn and rising. Enough to pay off the deficit. But Gary Barlow is rewarded, defended even, by our PM.

Companies also gain access to politicians through lobbying, a manipulative trick costing millions, seen as an investment by companies in exchange for political sway and favourable concern in policy. Further still, these lobbying meetings are a secret.

‘Whoever you vote for, big business gets in’ 

Pleasing business interests seems high on the list of all the main political parties. And while the language of profit and business infiltrates all aspects of our political sphere, we neglect to realise or debate the problems with this design. As Sandel notes, this sees us becoming a ‘market society’ as opposed to using a ‘market economy’ as a tool. This is why we have a housing crisis which is intent on building more luxury housing, likely to stay empty for months at a time, whilst our social housing waiting list continues to grow into the millions. A market society does not seek the route to creating a better society for all, but a more profitable climate for itself, and therefore the very nature of this as a basis for a political system is severely flawed.

We need a political sphere that acknowledges this.

Our current politics does not. Instead, we are witnessing the metamorphosis that seeks to empty our creative and social systems of their value and replace them with business jargon and the financialisation of every human and their needs. A case in point being the appointment of Sajid Javid; a man who was vice-chairman of a bank at 25 and has a history of financial employment has become, you guessed it, Minister for Culture.

Our political system has come to reflect the image of those it serves. Two thirds of the cabinet are millionaires and most of our MPs come from private schools which are attended by 7% of the population. As the gap between rich and poor increases, politicians become more removed from the realities of the lives of the 99%, and their diaries reflect their interests as such.


by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

The Success of Inequality

kamsandhu —  January 20, 2015 — 5 Comments

‘The prosecution, political prostitution, the more money you pay, the further away solution’ says Lauryn Hill, in the incredibly pertinent ‘Mystery of Iniquity‘, where Hill describes a morally bankrupt system, from the setting of a courtroom. We are taught to believe we have a democracy. That money should not buy you greater access or a better chance at justice, or the manipulation of a judicial decision, and yet we also quietly accept that court cases are expensive, especially if you want to get a ‘good lawyer.’

The US, where Hill is based, has 5% of the world’s population, and 25% of the world’s prison population. A fact that cannot be separated from the private prison system in America: a system which profits from the incarceration of human beings. Pursuing profit above all else is enshrined in law for corporations. The ‘success’ of the private prison business and it’s power in politics sees guarantees from states for high-occupancy rates of over 90% in contracts.

Similarly, here in the UK, public services and democratic institutions are lead by profit. Our public services are being sold to political party donors. Business interests are top priority, and their access to our politicians has become norm.

We are sold the idea that what finds profit is acceptable, regardless of it’s moral compliance. This narrative is incredibly useful to the handful of those who now own half the world’s wealth. Alternately, it is wildly destructive for the rest of the world’s population. And yet, we see ourselves submitting to an economy that has come to control society for the very few.


“It’s a myth that we’re a fair society. We have to take that needle out of our arms” – Reverend Sekou, In Ferguson

We’ve been given ‘villains’ to chastise as evil; the poor, the foreigner, the terrorist. Meanwhile success is embodied in the institutions in our society as the old, rich, white man, in suits, in high-flying jobs, in the city. They are unrelentingly the shape of our politicians, businessmen, bankers and financiers. These are the leaders in our democracy, while the brown faces from lands with no big city scapes, and different attire are the ‘rogues’, ‘strange’, ‘undemocratic’, ‘violent’, ‘in need of liberation’.

I highlight this to demonstrate the ways in which we internalise and justify the image of ‘our’ leaders, as intrinsically good and democratic. In 2013, a poll showed that 59% of Britons thought that less than 10,000 Iraqis had died from the invasion that begun in 2003By 2013, it is estimated this figure was actually half a million10,000 people were killed in Iraq in 2013 alone. This internalised imagery of ‘good’ works to minimise understanding of destructive acts performed by these leaders.

Similarly, austerity has been a successful propaganda exercise which replaces bankers and financiers on the pedestal while ordinary folk live out the consequences of their greed and control.

“If you look back to 2008, the stories on BBC News, all over the papers, the banks were suddenly crooks. When Northern Rock collapsed, the banks were crooks, they were all exposed. The Guardian was full of tombstones of copy about how the banks were rotten from the inside. It was the story.

A glimpse. That story ended after about three months and it was turned around, that it wasn’t really the bankers, but it all came down to a national debt and a controlled narrative was there and it’s called austerity and that debt had to be paid off. Why? Why did it have to be paid off?

So we saw this glimpse of the truth of this massive criminality……all the rotten architecture had collapsed…almost collapsed. Banks were nationalised. Banks were nationalised with no conditions. The consciousness of how this happened which was there, for I suppose about six months, was, thanks to a very effective propaganda system, was shifted. That it wasn’t the banks’ fault, it was our fault.”

John Pilger on the ABC of Media Power

Austerity in fact provides the cover to siphon wealth, resources and exploit the public at large, while they are braced to expect a blow. While those 83 own half the world’s wealth, the UK is seeing it’s new industry take shape in the form of food banks, with reports of malnutrition amongst the nation’s poorest. The following Adam Curtis video comments on this extraction of money..


We are taught to cradle and aggrandize this image of suited men in skyscrapers, in big important meetings, in big important cities. This image is given further adoration from the complexity and confusion of the language that surrounds it, carefully constructed to minimise public understanding of the psychopathic criminality involved.

Benefit fraud? Scroungers on the sponge.

We are littered with ways, colloquial and indignant, to describe the ‘villains’ we are presented with. But what of the Libor scandal?  Sub-prime mortgages? Fraudulent rating agencies? The Forex scandal? Much more elaborate financial jargon. No colloquial pseudonyms offered up by countless front pages (we rarely see these examples of huge corruption on the front page). No new ‘wealth porn’ genre on TV programming.

The irony and deception being that this is where the true scandal lies. This is where greed manifests above the law on a grotesque scale. The financial terrorism, which has resulted in the manipulation of trillions of dollars of transactions in the Libor scandal alone, has seen no one jailed.

Austerity is seeing us as a society slave-like in conditions of low pay and in-work poverty, fed divisive rhetoric all to serve the very few that really benefit from this system.

The truth is that the image of the city, suits and skyscrapers has come to represent a far more violent circus, but our minds have not caught up. We are rebutted with daily propaganda and internalisation of this as ‘good’.

When the pursuit of greed and self-interest becomes the determination of success, it creates a legal system that supports it and a culture that celebrates it.

‘I’m just doing my job’

We are taught that it is a ‘cut throat’, ‘dog eat dog’ world without ‘stopping to think whether anyone has actually ever seen a dog eat another dog’, in the words of Nicodemus Reuben, a friend and poet.

These ever present, soulless proverbs run alongside the narrative that we are a democratic and equal society. They encourage  individualism, distrust and acceptability of pursuing money at any cost. We promote ourselves and our society as moral with intrinsic moral values and yet are mentally prepared in doublethink from youth to enter an economy and ultimately a world, with no moral boundary and no personal responsibility. We may say ‘it’s just my job’, ‘I’m just doing what I am told,’ and this justification is used for occupations which vary by several orders of magnitude from soldiers to the lobbyists fighting against climate change regulation to profit from a few more years of plundering the earth’s resources.

We are taught to accept and believe in this playing field where corruption, self-interest and greed is not only allowed and present, but celebrated. These parameters are set for our entire work life which plays no small part in how we live.

“One of the delusions promoted by our society is the idea that great destructiveness is most often rooted in great cruelty and hatred. In reality, evil is not merely banal, it if often free of any sense of being evil – there may be no sense of moral responsibility for suffering at all.

….Normally, the implicit assumption is that signing a contract and being paid to do a job absolves us of all further moral responsibility. We have an agreement to do as we are told – an ostensibly innocuous act. If the people with whom we made this agreement then choose to send us to incinerate  and dismember civilians, that is their moral responsibility, not ours. our society exactly this self-surrender is promoted and affirmed by the fact it is demanded of us by every corporaton that ’employs’ us (like a tool), requiring us to sign our agreement to strict terms and conditions, and by the fact that huge costs are imposed on those of us unwilling to be ‘team players.’ We are trained to see this as ‘just the way the world is’ – something to be accepted rather than thought about.”

P. 173, Guardians Of Power, Media Lens – David Edwards, David Cromwell


This system now only serves a very few. The rest of us locked into the belief that if we were more competitive, made better choices or tried harder, we could be up there too. It is this belief and the submission to this dysfunctional economy that enables control of us as the 99%.


“The 1% is 1%. The 99% cannot all fit in the 1%


“The whole point of these inequalities is that if you run a society where  you tell people if you work hard enough, if you try hard enough, if you get to the very top you’ll be okay. But if you just miss the very top, if you get to the bottom of the top 10% you’ll have an insecure pension, you’ll have to worry about your old age, your health service might not be well provided, that is an unfair situation.


“You cannot all get in, or in  fact anywhere near the top 1%. A happy society is not one  where the 1% have done okay, and you tell everyone that’s what they should be aiming for.”

In this economy, insecurity is accelerating for us all. We are left unsure about access to basic human needs – housing, education, healthcare. The negative effect on the mental health of our society accelerates along with this insecurity.

We can have better security, and a society that meets our basic needs. This would provide a better society, mentally and physically, for us all. We already have many of the resources, enough rooms to house people, enough food to feed them, but this system encourages the distribution of resources to flow to the top 1% regardless of the deprivation for those at the bottom, and regardless that there is plenty for us all. There are examples of these societies already, where the welfare of the public at large is put first. But we also need to do away with the images of success that propagate this system of poisonous inequality.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

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1) ‘That’s rich’ – Osborne feigns concern for energy costs to consumers. Election time is here.



Chancellor George Osborne and the Tories attempted to double back on energy policy they had promoted and voted for to feign concern for the public. Unsurprising that this has happened four months before the election, as Michael Meacher explained in his post last week:

“It’s really rich that Osborne has tweeted: “Vital this (drop in the oil price) is passed on to families at petrol pumps, through utility bills and air fares”.   He’s spent the last 5 years lambasting Labour in support of the Tory free market mantra that the State should get out of the way and leave it all to the markets.   Now rather pathetically he’s pleading with market operators to show a dose of fair play rather than exploit a windfall for their own interests which is the natural instinct of capitalism.   It takes some gall for Osborne to try to jump on the bandwagon at the last minute, four months before the election, when he’s been aggressively promoting ruthless self-interest throughout his chancellorship.”

Osborne’s gesture is made even more hypocritical and insincere when taking into account the Tory participation in the vote AGAINST giving the UK’s energy regulator a statutory duty to pass on energy savings to customers when wholesale prices fall. You can see a list of who voted against and for on the Vox Political site here.

The cost of this self-interest goes much further than hypocrisy before an election. Last year, there were 18,000 excess winter deaths in the UK, with more than 6,000 dying from the impact of a cold home.

2) Manifesto calls on next government to end homelessness

A manifesto sent to politicians by calls on those seeking the next government to vow to end homelessness by focusing on five key areas. “Let’s Make the Difference” uses the experiences of those who have been homeless, and the services that support them, to understand what is needed from government.

The manifesto says that it is ‘unacceptable’ that people are sleeping rough in Britain today. And they are right. We have the resources to house every person in this country, yet homelessness is rising, increasing in cost to the public purse and the mental and physical health of those out on the streets.

Read the manifesto in brief and find out more about homeless,org here. 

Read the full manifesto here.

3) Greens have more members than UKIP

The number of Green Party members overtook UKIP numbers last week.

“On Thursday morning Green Party sources said it had 43,829 members as of midday. Ukip’s reported membership is 41,966.

Green Party sources also claimed to have put on 2,000 members yesterday, in what potentially is its biggest one-day surge in numbers ever.”

The news comes as The Green Party leader Natalie Bennett battles for a spot on TV debates.

Ofcom ruled that the Greens were not a ‘major party’ in the way that Lib Dems, UKIP, Conservatives and Labour are. However, following this increase in members many are calling this ruling into question.

David Cameron said that he would not take part in the debates if the Greens were not included, and has been accused of using this as an excuse to avoid the debates. Clegg said the idea of Cameron’s concern for a fair debate with the Greens included was ‘laughable’.

Read more about this story here.

4) Farage faces challenge from FUKP

Al Murray’s comic character, The Pub Landlord, has announced he is standing for election in Thanet alongside Nigel Farage, for the Guv’nor’s newly formed Free United Kingdom Party “because it’s time for a man waving around a pint offering some common sense solutions.”

The landlord sets out 13 points as his manifesto in this following video, assuring voters he will “make Thanet the capital of the UK” with “pints for 1p” adding:

“Let it be known that like many of the Parliamentary hopefuls in the forthcoming election, I have no idea where South Thanet is – but did that stop Margaret Thatcher from saving the Falkland Islands? No.”

5) Government names and shames 37 National Minimum Wage offenders

The government released the names of 37 employers who failed to pay the National Minimum Wage to employees on 15th January. Business Minister Jo Swinson released names and penalties totalling £51,000 for the employers who owe £177,000 collectively. This follows the release of 55 other offenders since the ‘naming regime’ came into force in October 2013.

Employers face fines of up to £20,000 for paying below the minimum wage, currently set at £6.50 for those aged 21+. Jo Swinson has announced that government are now looking to apply this penalty per employee rather than per company.

You can find the list of employers here.


We featured an interview with West Hendon resident Jasmin Parsons a few weeks ago, detailing the treatment of local residents while property developers Barratts and the Metrolpolitan Housing Trust attempt to cleanse the estate to make way for luxury dwellings. On 22nd January, West Hendon residents are holding a day of activism and a rally. Please show your support if you can:

Image: Our West Hendon

Image: Our West Hendon


Come and listen to the Focus E15 Mothers talk about their campaign 2-4pm West Hendon Community Centre Marsh Dr NW9

Join us for some hot soup and rolls while we drop our ginormous banner – 4-5pm

March from the estate to the Public Inquiry at Hendon Town Hall – 5-6pm

Outside Hendon Town Hall we will be joined by the Women from The New Era campaign, speakers from the Our West Hendon Group, Radical Housing Network , Unite The Union and other estates in Barnet where we will make a noise and voice our objections to the social cleansing of West Hendon and London wide. – 6pm onwards”

See the Facebook event here

Like Our West Hendon on Facebook for updates

By Michael Crick

At the centre of Old Mill Street stands Ancoats Dispensary. Once the ‘beating heart’ of the community, making up one section of the historic Ancoats Hospital, the building now lies empty and abandoned. Broken windows and the absence of a roof leave it exposed to the elements, while scaffolding surrounds the crumbling facade. But a collection of placards hanging at each corner of the building displaying defiant messages – ‘Save Our Heritage’, ‘Say No to Demolition’, ‘Is this the Way to Treat a Listed Building?’ – reveal the efforts of a group of local residents and activists fighting to restore the ruined building and reunite a fragmented community.

Image: Guardian

Image: Guardian

The Ancoats Dispensary Trust began their campaign to save the Grade II listed building in 2011 after discovering that its owners, property developers Urban Splash, were planning to demolish it. The mere mention of demolition could have sounded the death knell for the dispensary if it weren’t for the efforts of the Trust. Inspired into action, a group of Ancoats residents quickly organised and established a grassroots campaign, relentlessly opposing the destruction of the iconic building. Since then, the movement has been gaining momentum as local residents have employed a range of tactics, presenting their case to the local MP, collecting five thousand signatures of support and appearing on BBC radio. The activists even held a daily vigil outside the derelict dispensary for two years, their physical presence acting as a constant reminder of the threat to the cherished building and the residents’ determination to save it. The Trust’s unwavering oppositional stance gave them a taste of victory in 2013 when Urban Splash bowed to popular pressure, putting their plans for demolition on hold. But having successfully deferred the destruction of the building, the group are now continuing the fight to restore the dispensary and reclaim it for the Ancoats community.

The strength of feeling for the dispensary is unsurprising given its central position in the industrial heritage of Ancoats. After standing at two different locations in the area, the dispensary moved to its current position on Old Mill Street in 1874 and has been a vital part of the community ever since. As a ‘voluntary hospital’, the dispensary offered free healthcare to poor workers from the mills, foundries and factories of Ancoats. Driven by a requirement to meet the needs of an overcrowded and underprivileged industrial area, the dispensary saw innovations in the treatment of infectious diseases and physical injuries, notably opening the world’s first fracture clinic in 1914. However, the dispensary’s prominence gradually faded throughout the twentieth century, before it was eventually closed in 1989.

The Trust are now aiming to release the potential of the dormant dispensary with a plan to transform the building into a public space that can be used to promote creativity, cultural diversity and community cohesion. This renovation would potentially include art studios, meeting rooms, spaces for local social enterprise groups to operate and a community cafe. Describing themselves as a group that ‘represents a community that sees a future in the successes of their past’, it is clear that the Trust’s restoration plans deliberately draw on the institution’s history of healing. In the early twentieth century, the dispensary pioneered the treatment of broken bones. Now, the Trust are determined to reignite this reconstructive spirit to repair a community still bearing the scars of post-industrial decline.

“If you look back over the last 50 or 60 years, maybe even longer, the Ancoats area, including the hospital, was a thriving, busy community jam-packed with lots of social agencies in terms of community work going on”, recalls Linda Carver, Ancoats resident and co-ordinator of the Trust. “There was a sense that everybody was looking out for everybody else.” Changes to the community, however, caused by deindustrialisation and the demolition and relocation of housing, led to the rapid erosion of this network of social support in the second half of the twentieth century. “Nothing was happening in Ancoats. Where did people go? How did they get together and meet?”

Though recent regeneration schemes, led primarily by Urban Splash, ostensibly sought to reinvigorate the Ancoats area, they seem to have only exacerbated existing issues of disconnection in the community. “There is this feeling that there is a gentrification taking place”, notes Carver, acknowledging the concern felt by local residents about the new developments in the area, “particularly when they know that it’s almost as if no-one can get access to these apartments.” Indeed, as Urban Splash have overhauled the area with their ‘New Islington’ regeneration project,  the open arrangement of the council estate has largely been replaced by the imposing and isolating architecture of the luxury apartment block. It’s not hard to see why residents might feel they are being excluded.

It is unity, however, that is at the heart of the Trust’s vision and, for Carver, that includes the residents of the new flats. She envisages the restored dispensary as a catalyst for community activity, a centre around which Ancoats residents, both old and new, can converge. By transforming the building into a space to promote the arts, Carver hopes to “challenge the perception” that recent arrivals may have of Ancoats and encourage them to engage with the community. But this focus on art and culture is also intended to inspire the existing community, as Carver emphasises the empowering potential of creative activity: “Creativity is the key to Ancoats Dispensary. The creativity that in turn creates a sense of wellbeing, which in turn creates a feeling of hope and optimism that has the power to change people’s lives.”

Highlighting the success of recent projects run at Bridge-5 Mill, 42nd Street and Hope Mill, Carver points out that the Ancoats area is seeing a resurgence of cultural and community activity, noting that the Trust hope to contribute to this increasingly cohesive network of organisations. For Carver, this transformation represents a reclamation of power for the Ancoats community after years of seeing their neighbourhood altered by private developers and the City Council: “It’s about local people feeling that they are in control of things that are happening in their area, that something isn’t being imposed on them.” With this assertion, Carver reveals the radical core of the campaign. No longer content to simply resist demolition, the group are now actively attempting to restructure the community; the Trust have progressed from a group with primarily defensive ambitions, to one that is demanding an alternative through collective grassroots action.

But the building is still not safe. Having partnered with property developers, Igloo Regeneration, the Trust have formally drawn up their restoration plan and applied for a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. While their initial application has been approved and the group have been awarded a provisional round of funding, the Trust still need to raise £55,000 by February 2015 in order to secure the full grant, take ownership of the building and fully realise their vision for the dispensary. The group are now engaged in a huge fundraising effort, seeking help wherever they can find it by applying for extra grants, running a ‘Night of Art’ benefit event and holding an online crowdfunding campaign at “I’m convinced we will get it”, asserts Carver, who remains optimistic despite the formidable nature of the task ahead. “When people realise what they are about to lose, I think they’ll step up.”

“People have always described it as our Ancoats – it’s our hospital”, notes Carver, returning again to the sense of community entrenched in the area. If the Trust can continue to inspire and empower the residents of Ancoats, then perhaps in their effort to preserve their past, they will be able to reclaim and reshape their future.

You can support the campaign and find out more here.




“While Cameron insists that he occupies the centre ground of British politics, that he shares our burdens and feels our pain, he has quietly been plotting with banks and businesses to engineer the greatest transfer of wealth from the poor and middle to the ultra-rich that this country has seen in a century.

“At the moment tax law ensures that companies based here, with branches in other countries, don’t get taxed twice on the same money. They have to pay only the difference between our rate and that of the other country. If, for example, Dirty Oil plc pays 10% corporation tax on its profits in Oblivia, then shifts the money over here, it should pay a further 18% in the UK, to match our rate of 28%. But under the new proposals, companies will pay nothing at all in this country on money made by their foreign branches.

“Foreign means anywhere. If these proposals go ahead, the UK will be only the second country in the world to allow money that has passed through tax havens to remain untaxed when it gets here. The other is Switzerland. The exemption applies solely to “large and medium companies”: it is not available for smaller firms. The government says it expects “large financial services companies to make the greatest use of the exemption regime”. The main beneficiaries, in other words, will be the banks.

“But that’s not the end of it. While big business will be exempt from tax on its foreign branch earnings, it will, amazingly, still be able to claim the expense of funding its foreign branches against tax it pays in the UK. No other country does this. The new measures will, as we already know, accompany a rapid reduction in the official rate of corporation tax: from 28% to 24% by 2014. This, a Treasury minister has boasted, will be the lowest rate “of any major western economy”. By the time this government is done, we’ll be lucky if the banks and corporations pay anything at all. In the Sunday Telegraph, David Cameron said: “What I want is tax revenue from the banks into the exchequer, so we can help rebuild this economy.” He’s doing just the opposite.”

George Monbiot, 2011

Read the full referenced article on George Monbiot’s website